How to put a week at White Rabbit into words? Sixteen artists, two facilitators, various coordinators, a baby, a puppy, a dog, an angora rabbit, a radio host, a gardener, cooks, and countless amazing volunteers convened on a property in rural Nova Scotia and fell immediately into it. Side-stepping small talk, we dug right into our practices, ourselves, and our struggles.
New practices were in the making, and known practices were given a chance to re-form. An architect wove string through the forest and a textile artist knitted the bones of a deer. A filmmaker created an installation in an orchard. One artist hosted a karaoke installation, coining the term “hippy pastiche,” and another recorded a walking journey. Drummers played the Fundy tides, a cellist played by the pond, prompting and responding to frogs, and with another musician, composed for the horizon. Artists built environments, both treacherous and comforting, out of folded paper, or mirrors, some with impossible pathways, others a woven landscape. One brother instigated a ritual, and another framed the moon.
I plucked the landscape. I searched out the gesture of plucking in other actions, and examining—or clowning—the motion. Over the course of the week, the plucking became a way to engage with other projects or tasks, helping wherever I could. The week also became just simply about the doing—faisant. Pluck the weeds from the garden, drum, bake bread, make pie, walk, collect wood, listen, discuss, pluck moss, recite, ask, risk, walk a tidal bed, make a garden bed, swim, pluck stones, sing, walk, pluck sea grass, document, write… I laughed when I heard that chickens were to be killed and plucked the day I left; feeling the disconnect between the an art festival, and the practicalities of a property that feeds year-round.
Here is a link to the Red Clay Radio. Cycle through to “Walking tour of the works” where you’ll hear my description at 50:16-60:24
The residency was more than the work produced. The discussions we had throughout the day, over three shared meals, in saunas, on walks, during the making, and at a nightly campfire check-in were illuminating. I valued the ongoing support of our projects, and the opportunity to dig into our practices. Although great movements forward can happen when on the knife’s edge of discomfort, a safe place to question can also lead to great risks. It was precisely what I needed: to push questions of performance in my practice without editing too early, to begin a collaborative discussion with musicians, and to break through any paralysis. As I’d hoped, reacquainting myself with the gesture has lead quickly to other drawings since.
For me the week was a continuation of existing work, and as such had no clear beginning or end. The results weren’t overt, or even recognizable to festival goers, nor did they need to be. Tom, who very generously gives his property, and quietly steers a vision for the project, reminded us that it isn’t serious. Although serious work can be accomplished in this environment, it is approached with an openness. I didn’t look to the week as a final production, but rather as another part of the whole. The effects of the residency, and the questions I investigated there, are substantial and lingering.
September still gives me a sense of a beginning. Will that holdover from school days ever finish? It continues this year, as this is the beginning of my second term at Eyelevel.
A little over a year ago I had finished my first day of work at Eyelevel Gallery. Physically tired from cross-Atlantic jet-lag, and emotionally exhausted from a whirlwind year. Still believing I was timid—the identities we construct through our personal histories are persistent—yet was told four times that first week how tall I walked. It was true. I’d never walked with such gusto as in those eight minutes to Eyelevel. I was terrified, but I also prepared, and thrilled to be taking on the challenge.
As I’m not yet ready to put White Rabbit to words, I thought I’d instead look at the last two years, and set the context that left me primed for that environment, and hungry for that experience.
Last month, I attended a lecture about adulthood, as a part of the Fuller Terrace Lecture Series. So much of the discussion centred around work and play, learning, autonomy, and accountability to ourselves, rather than to traditional measurements of adulthood: ideas in consonance with much of my learning in the last two years:
to leave in order to connect
to create home within myself
to be brave
to receive and to give without attachment
that we are ultimately accountable to ourselves
to value practice that isn’t drawing
déplumer un faisan
faire une sauce béchamel
ballader pour le respounchous
to forgive my practice when I falter
to recognize that faltering is practice
to ride out uncertainty
to set boundaries, and to assert them
to read again
that my work communicates the drawing as much or more than its content
that gestures are the content
avoir une personnalité en français, même si je fais les erreurs.
faire les erreurs
to let go
Without this year at Eyelevel, I’m not sure I could have digested all that Europe meant. Without last year in Europe, I doubt I would have been so steady in this maelstrom. Now finally, my studio is set, drawings are happening, White Rabbit has inspired, and the work at Eyelevel feels more grounded .
Onto the next year!